Jun 152007

ABC News Online
News from the ABC’s Investigative Unit which last night revealed what looks suspiciously like more underhanded movements by the Howardian cabal towards embracing the nuclear power cycle, is reminiscent of John Howard’s claims of non-involvement in ethanol marketing by the Manildra Group not so many moons ago.

Anyone who pays attention to the sequence of events surrounding the nuclear debate, which Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane continues to say we ought to be having, but which never seems to have substance, knows full well that Howard hadn’t expressed the slightest interest in taking Australia down the nuclear road, until APEC 2006. At that meeting, and shortly afterwards in Washington, Howard opted to follow the lead of George W. Bush yet again, by adopting the American push for a greater expansion of nuclear technology and uranium sales to favoured American allies on the Asian subcontinent. Since that time, we’ve heard a continuous push from the coalition for a so-called public debate which thus far hasn’t eventuated, and improbable claims by the government and its sympathisers of nuclear energy’s overwhelming dominance in the non-greenhouse stakes over all other forms of mains power generation.
The push toward nuclear has nothing whatever to do with the government’s recent epiphany on climate change. It has only to do with what the U.S. decrees we, as a compliant client state, ought to be supporting. The push toward nuclear and the claims of ‘totally green-house gas free’ energy production are simply false. As this article points out:

The nuclear industry has widely disseminated the false notion that nuclear energy emits no greenhouse gases. The truth is that every step (except reactor operation) in the long chain of processes that makes up the nuclear fuel “cycle” burns fossil fuels and hence emits CO2. The emitting steps are uranium mining, milling fuel fabrication, uranium enrichment, construction and decommissioning of the reactor, and waste management.

Yet more smoke and mirrors by the Government, which given past form, isn’t all that surprising.
Equally unsurprising are these revelations from the ABC’s Investigative Unit. Proposed uranium enrichment plants at Caboolture (Qld) or Redcliffe (S.A.) are merely window dressing. The fact that this report reveals a company structure, with one of the last of Australia’s nuclear science researchers as a director, and a proposal ready to be presented to the Government for the establishment of this enrichment process exists does tend to put more credence to the Opposition claims of collusion between Government and private enterprise over the nuclear issue. In March this year, questions were asked in the Parliament of the PM as to his knowledge of plans by Messrs Walker, Morgan and De Crespigny to form an entity to investigate investment in the enrichment process. Of course, he knew nothing, other than receiving a phone call from Ron Walker to say as much, to which he apparently replied, “Good idea, Ron”. Shortly following this phone call, Howard is on record as stating:

I am announcing today a new strategy for the future development of uranium mining and nuclear power in Australia. The Government will implement this strategy to increase uranium exports and to prepare for a possible expansion of the nuclear industry in Australia. The strategy will involve a number of actions that can be taken immediately, including:

  • removing unnecessary constraints impeding the expansion of uranium mining, such as overlapping and cumbersome regulations relating to the mining and transport of uranium ore;
  • making a firm commitment to Australia’s participation in the Generation IV advanced nuclear reactor research programme.

My Government will also develop four major work plans mapping out a way forward for:

  1. an appropriate nuclear energy regulatory regime – including those to govern any future potential nuclear energy facilities in Australia;
  2. skills and technical training to address any identified gaps and needs to support a possible expanded nuclear energy industry;
  3. enhanced research and development; and
  4. communication strategies so that all Australians and other stakeholders can clearly understand what needs to be done and why.

Relevant Ministers and their Departments are to commence this work immediately and to report to Cabinet by around September this year;
The work plans are to be implemented in 2008. The Government’s next step will be to repeal Commonwealth legislation prohibiting nuclear activities, including the relevant provisions of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This will be addressed soon.

Make no mistake, Australia’s proposed adventures into the realm of the nuclear energy cycle are not, and never have been about climate change, greenhouse gas reduction or efficiencies in energy production. The plans by Australian Nuclear Fuel Pty Ltd to advance the enrichment process are not altruistic. This is all about money, as detailed on the 7:30 Report last night. The pre-feasibility study put together by Australian Nuclear Fuel Pty Ltd sees the enrichment plant as ‘operating profitably by adding value to unprocessed yellow cake instead of all this added value being realised by overseas companies’. This is all about money, people. Profits, corporate expansion and distant, lucrative horizons. Forget the road-to-damascus claims of enlightenment by the politicians. It’s all lies. Involvement by the government in this enrichment exercise, however tangential it may be made to appear, is a given. What we, the people, need to ascertain is exactly why. Let’s have the truth, rather than the rose-coloured spectacle view. Let’s know what the future plans really are, as opposed to just how profitable selling our own value-added uranium product to who knows what foreign power as the end-user will ultimately be. In short, let’s cut the crap and have it out with the politicians.
2007 brings the ultimate opportunity to have such a discussion. Let’s have this vaunted public debate on the nuclear issue and stop dancing around it. Forget the loaded, biased reports and feel-good rhetoric. Let’s find out just who we can trust on this issue, and why. I’m up for it.

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